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Becoming a CSI

Step #1: Learn about the job.

What does a Police Crime-Scene Investigator do? What skills, knowledge and abilities are required? What education and experience is needed to qualify for the job?

The answers depend on the exact job you apply for and the agency that offers the job. Read the job summaries of the job openings listed on the Employment page. This will give you an idea of the variety of responsibilities the employee will have as well as the minimum requirements to apply for the job.

Also, read over the material on the Crime-Scene-Investigator.net (this www site). There is a variety of information that will help you understand the job of a Crime-Scene Investigator. One article, Duty Description for the CrimeScene Investigator, by Mike Byrd of the Miami-Dade Police Department gives a good description of what a Crime Scene Investigator does on the job.

One of the best things you can do is to contact agencies in the geographical area you wish to work and find out what their Crime-Scene Investigators do on the job, what their minimum requirements for applying are, and how often the have job openings.

Step #2: Prepare for the job.

Some positions require you have a 4 year degree in science while others only require a GED or High School graduation. Some agencies require you be a sworn police officer before becoming a Crime Scene Investigator.

If the position you want requires formal training then check your local colleges and universities. You can check the college and university page on this www site for some leads. Many community colleges have Criminal Justice classes that include crime scene investigations.

Regardless of what the education and experience are for the job you are seeking, there are some things you can do to prepare for the job and the interview. Again, reading over the material on this www site will give you some information. But if you really want to be prepared, you must do more. As a person who interviews candidates for law enforcement jobs I can tell you that agencies are inclined to give jobs to those who have a clear understanding of the job they are applying for, and have done something to prepare themselves for the job.

One way to gain knowledge and be able to show you have prepared yourself is to read the right books. I strongly recommend you read the following four books before interviewing for the job (and be sure you tell those interviewing you that you have read these books).

First, a book that tells about the science of crime scene investigation: cover Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation by Barry A.J. Fisher 6 edition (January 26, 2000) ($79.95) Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation, Sixth Edition examines concepts, field-tested techniques and procedures, and technical information concerning crime scene investigation. This comprehensive text has been widely adopted by police academies, community colleges, and universities. Three professional organizations-the International Association for Identification, the American Board of Criminalistics, and the Forensic Science Society-recommend this book as a text to prepare for their certification examinations.

Second, a book that gives you practical instruction on the recovery, collection, and packaging of crime scene evidence: cover Crime Scene Evidence: A Guide to the Recovery and Collection of Physical Evidence by Mike Byrd (July 2, 2001) ($29.95) Crime Scene Evidence was written by a veteran crime scene investigator. The book is designed to be carried in the field and used as a reference in the recovery, collection, and packaging of crime scene evidence. Categories of evidence covered in this book include impression evidence, forensic biology evidence, trace evidence, firearms evidence and questioned documents. The book contains numerous photographs, diagrams and tables. Topics cover most evidence located at crime scenes from fingerprints, including fingerprints on human skin, to recovering bullets from inside walls. This 102 page 5 1/2’ by 8 1/2’ book includes an appendix listing likely evidence found at scenes by type of investigation.Order this title directly from the publisher and receive a 10% discount.

You might consider purchasing a basic fingerprint kit and, following the instructions in the book Crime Scene Evidence: A Guide to the Recovery and Collection of Physical Evidence (above), learn how to collect fingerprint evidence. A good basic fingerprint kit for about $35.00 can be purchased on-line from Chief Supply.

As you read through the job announcements, you will see that two areas are frequently mentioned. They are photography and fingerprints. Some even require photographic skills to apply. If you have little or no photographic skill, select a book from the CSI Bookstore’s Basic Photography section and learn photography. You might take even a basic photography class at a community college. Then you should learn about crime scene and evidence photography. For a book on crime scene and evidence photography you should read the book in use by thousands of Crime Scene Investigators: cover Crime Scene and Evidence Photographer’s Guide by Steven Staggs (June 1997) ($24.95) The Crime Scene and Evidence Photographer’s Guide is designed to be a field reference for those responsible for photography at the crime scene. It may be used by law enforcement officers, investigators, and crime scene technicians. It contains instructions for photographing a variety of crimes scenes and various types of evidence. It is a valuable reference tool when combined with training and experience. The Crime Scene and Evidence Photographer’s Guide is also a helpful resource for students and others interested in entering into the field of crime scene investigation. Designed to be carried in an evidence kit or camera bag, this publication contains step-by-step instructions for photographing crime scenes and evidence. It includes 42 example photographs, eight diagrams, and three tables. Order this title directly from the publisher and receive a 10% discount.

For a good foundation on comparing fingerprints, you should read (and work through the quizzes in the book): cover Introduction to Fingerprint Comparison by Gary W. Jones (October 16, 2000) ($29.95) Introduction to Fingerprint Comparison was written by retired FBI Supervisory Fingerprint Specialist Gary W. Jones. This book is a valuable text in learning the basic skills in fingerprint comparison. Examples and quizzes give the reader a solid foundation on which to build comparison skills. Order this title directly from the publisher and receive a 10% discount.

Most agencies in the United States give extra consideration for candidates that speak both English and Spanish. If you are taking classes at a college you should consider studying a second language to make you more ’marketable.’ You can also learn Spanish, or many other languages, by taking an online foreign language course.

Step #3: Apply for the job.

Have a good resume. Even if the agency does not require a resume, attach one to the application. It can make the difference in getting an interview and even the job. You can use a good resume writing service such as e-resume.net to prepare a quality resume. Or you can use the advice and examples in the book The Resume Handbook: How to Write Outstanding Resumes and Cover Letters for Every Situation (3rd Ed) to prepare a good resume and cover letter.

When you apply for the job be sure you do your homework. Learn about the agency and the community it serves. A favorite question asked in interviews is ’What do you know about our department and what do you know about our community?’ Be prepared to answer the typical questions. You might read one or both of the books Best Answers to the 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions and Interview Strategies That Will Get You the Job You Want. Good Luck!

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